Friday, January 9, 2015

Carpe Diem "Little Creatures" #15, Buson's "Mud-Snails

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

I owe you all a new episode of our bi-weekly special "Little Creatures". So here it is ... I hadn't time to create and publish it last Thursday, so my apologies ...

As you all maybe can remember this special feature is meant to "learn" you all to watch at the little things of nature. Issa for example was a haiku -poet who looked very close to his surroundings and he honored all the little creatures, such as flies and bedbugs. Haiky is sometimes called the poetry of the Micro-World and I think that's very true ... as haiku poets we look closely to all creatures around us including the little creatures and today I have a wonderful haiku written by Buson (1716-1784), one of the big-five haiku poets, about "mud-snails". I will first give you the haiku and than I will try to tell something more about that haiku.

hiroinokosu tanishi ni tsuki no yûbe kana

a few remain uncaught
under the evening moon

© Yosa Buson

And here is one by Matsuo Basho which he wrote at the age of 39:

sode yogosuran tanishi no ama no hima o nami

with dirty sleeves
farmers-turned-fishermen pick up mud snails
ever so busy

© Matsuo Basho (at the age of 39)

Tanishi (or mud-snail)
"Tanishi" are edible snails, supposed to be a cure for beri-beri.The poet has been collecting, in rather a desultory way, these snails in the rice-fields. It begins to grow dark. The spring moon rises, and from the rice-field come the voices of a few mud-snails that have been left behind. There is something ironical, that is, something both pathetic and comical in the sound.
In actual fact, these snails do not, of course, make any sound at all. Some other creatures' squeaking or crying is still mistaken, by ordinary Japanese, for the sound of the tanishi. This, however, in no way affects the value, the poetry of the verse, which is not in the region of science any more than of humanitarianism.

I found a few other haiku about mud-snails the first one is by Jûjô and the second haiku is by Gomei. I just love to share them here also.

nuritate no aze wo yurideru tanishi kana

the mud-snail
in the newly-made rice-field bank,
joggles its way out

© Jûjô

nisanjaku hôte tanishi no higurekeri

the mud-snail
crawls two or three feet, -
and the day is over

© Gomei

Gorgeous haiku written about mud-snails, a nice little creature, and they (the above mentioned haiku-poets) had an eye for them. They saw the little creatures, the mud-snails, as part of their surroundings.

slowly, but slowly
the mud-snail finds its way
after the heavy rains

© Chèvrefeuille

Snails in the moonlight (Couldn't retrieve the owner)

Ah ... I love those little creatures and I think this haiku is very nicely built .... Here is another one, a cascading haiku-series which I wrote last year for Haiku Horizons.

watching a snail
in the light of the full moon
just a silver trail

just a silver trail
points me to the right place
mountain monastery

mountain monastery
finally becoming one
I bow to my master

I bow to my master
Matsuo Basho told me the way
to watch a snail

© Chèvrefeuille

A nice post it has become I think. I hope you did love the read and that the "mud-snails" will inspire you to write also haiku (or tanka) about snails. You don't need to follow the classical rules, but try to follow the following rule: short line, long line, short line ... and maybe you can bring in a juxtaposition (as we have learned last wednesday) in your haiku (or tanka).

!! More on Tanishi !!

This episode of Carpe Diem's "Little Creatures" is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until next Thursday January 15th at noon (CET). For now .... have fun! Let your muse inspire you ...!


  1. Well..although I am not sure about cascading haiku, that one was absolutely masterful. The verses would you so good hanging on a wall on canvas, with etched sketches. Wonderful.

  2. Hello Chevrefuille :)

    First of all -- YAY! Little Creatures! Thank you so much. I love these prompts. And both your haiku and your haiku series are wonderful -- but I'm especially fond of the "slowly" haiku. So elegant - and a touch of humor too.

    Found the "snails in the moonlight" image -- it's by TwoMeows.

    And how neat to see Gomei and Jûjô too :)

    Wonderful prompt :D

  3. What a great post! Your haiku series are such a nice journey.

  4. it's been fun working with haiku's... need to be so careful at chosen the right few words... but really a mind teaser... you should have someone work up a button for you so we can copy for our blogs... if i knew how, i'd do it for you

  5. I especially enjoyed Gomei and your 'slowly, but slowly' - hey, it's best to take things easy :-)